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Kyrgyz leader says refugees should return

world Updated: Jun 18, 2010 23:50 IST

Kyrgyzstan’s interim leader travelled to the strife-torn south on Friday, pledging to rebuild the region to allow refugees from ethnic bloodletting to return to their homes from squalid camps.

The government has struggled to restore order following clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz around the ancient Silk Road city of Osh that killed about 200 people last week — the worst violence in Kyrgyzstan in two decades.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees, mainly women and children, are crammed into huts and makeshift camps in the sun-scorched plains of the Ferghana valley, many running out of food and water.

Acting president Roza Otunbayeva landed in Osh, its streets lined with charred buildings, in a military helicopter to meet local leaders.

“We will rebuild the city of Osh no matter what, so people can return to their homes,” a government statement quoted Otunbayeva as saying during the visit. The death toll from the recent ethnic bloodshed in Kyrgyzstan may be ten times higher than officially acknowledged, Otunbayeva said.

“I would multiply by ten times the official figures,” of 191 dead to arrive at the death toll, he told Kommersant. “Because there were very many deaths in the countryside, and our customs dictate that we bury our dead right away, before sunset.”